Hundreds protested outside Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office Tuesday afternoon in a national day of action urging Congress to shut down migrant detention camps.
Demonstrators blocked the intersection of Market Street near Montgomery Street to call out unfair treatment of migrants inside overcrowded detention facilities.
“Close the camps! Close the camps!”
Grace Hersh, a demonstration organizer, told the massive crowd:
“I know you’re here because your hearts are as shattered as mine.”
Hersh referred to public statements made by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) after a recent visit to a detention facility in El Paso, Texas.
“Drink the water out of the toilets. No, you can’t have a diaper. No, you can’t have soap. No, you can’t have toothpaste and a toothbrush. No, you can’t have a blanket.”
Hersh listed three demands: closure of detention camps, discontinuation of federal funding for detention facilities and that Feinstein use her vacation this week to personally visit one of the camps being protested.
Cheyla Samuelson, assistant professor of Spanish at San Jose State University, said she joined the demonstration because she could not sit by quietly as asylum seekers are being detained inhumanely.
“I’m a professor at San Jose State. We’re a Hispanic-serving institution. This affects my students and their families. I’ve been so tormented seeing the stories in the news about the treatment of children and the families. I feel like we’re violating the laws of morality of this country in terms of taking in refugees, caring for people, giving people a human place to wait while their cases come up.”
“It’s not right. It’s not who we are.”
A small group of demonstrators led a march down Market Street later in the afternoon and headed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office on Seventh Street.
The crowd chanted:
“Do your job, Nancy.”
Rachel Kotok also attended Tuesday’s demonstration in support of detention facility closures. Kotok said:
“ I think we need to take the almost 50,000 in detention throughout this country and get them out. People who are crossing the border have right to seek asylum. It’s a human right and it’s a universal human right and we are violating that. We need to shut this down.”
The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General recently visited centers in Texas and published findings Tuesday. In the report detailing squalid conditions, Acting Inspector General Jennifer Costello expressed many concerns. The report reads:
“[O]vercrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained.”